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Phillips, James

James Phillips (1792-1867) was born and educated in England. "There is some evidence that James and his brother Samuel Field Phillips, sons of a Church of England rector, changed their surname from Postlethwaite to Phillips when they emigrated from England to New York in 1818" (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 5:89). The brothers established a classical school in Harlem, and in 1821 James married Judith Vermeule of New Jersey, who bore him three children: Charles (1822-89), Samuel (1824-1903), and Cornelia (1825-1908). In 1826 the Phillipses moved to Chapel Hill, where James Phillips became professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, a position he held until his death. In 1832, following a local revival led by Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844), Phillips became a Presbyterian, receiving a license to preach from the Orange Presbytery. He traveled the state as an evangelist and in 1845 helped organize a Presbyterian church in Chapel Hill, which was dedicated on September 23, 1849. Phillips received an MA from the University in 1829 and a DD in 1851. The Phillipses also established in their home the Phillips Female Academy, which enrolled its first student in 1837. Judith Phillips together with faculty spouses Fanny Hooper and Maria Mitchell organized the first Sunday school in Chapel Hill, which was held in the campus chapel. On the morning of March 14, 1867, just after Phillips had entered the chapel for morning prayers with the assembled students, he fell dead. Students bore his body home through a spring snow storm. (Vickers 30-31, 48, 85).